Gentle Moves: Best Motor Skills Toys for Newborns



· 5 min read
Enhancing Newborn Motor Skills with Safe Toys

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch


Motor skills refer to a child's ability to move and control their muscles and body. These skills develop gradually in the first year as babies gain strength, balance, coordination, and control over their movements. As infants explore their environment, they build connections in their brain that allow them to roll over, sit up, crawl, and eventually walk and run.

Promoting motor development in newborns is crucial, as research shows it lays the foundation for future physical abilities as well as cognitive, social, and emotional skills. Providing infants with safe opportunities to move and interact with their environment helps build these neural connections. This is where baby toys that encourage movement and exploration come in.

This article will discuss the benefits of motor skills toys designed for newborns and highlight the best options to promote development through safe, gentle play.

What Are Motor Skills?

Motor skills refer to movements involving the use of muscles to perform various tasks and functions. They are divided into two main categories: gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills involve the large muscles that control arm, leg, and body movements. These include abilities like sitting, crawling, walking, running, and jumping. Fine motor skills rely on smaller muscle movements, like those in the hands, fingers, toes and eyes. These include skills like grasping objects, writing, buttoning clothes, and using utensils. Both gross and fine motor skills are important for normal growth and development in infants and children. Mastering these skills allows children to explore their environment and gain independence in daily tasks.

Stages of Motor Development

Motor development in babies occurs in stages from birth through the first year as babies gain control and coordination of their bodies. Here are some of the major motor milestones in the first year:

0-2 months: Lifts head briefly when on tummy, opens and closes hands, kicks legs when lying on back

3-4 months: Holds head steady when supported in sitting position, swipes at dangling toys, brings hands to mouth, pushes down on legs when feet are placed on firm surface

5-7 months: Rolls from tummy to back, sits with support, supports weight on legs, reaches for objects

8-12 months: Sits independently, crawls, pulls self to stand, walks with support, picks up small objects with thumb and finger

Benefits of Motor Skills Toys

Motor skills toys provide a wide range of developmental benefits for newborns and infants. Some key benefits include:

Cognitive Development:Toys that encourage reaching, grasping, shaking, and manipulation promote hand-eye coordination and cause-and-effect understanding. As babies interact with toys, they build connections in their brain and learn about object permanence. Toys with different colors, textures, and sounds also stimulate the senses and support cognitive growth.

Physical Development:Motor skills toys help babies strengthen their muscles and practice movements like reaching, kicking, rolling, crawling, and more. Different toys work on fine motor control in the hands and fingers as well as gross motor skills throughout the arms, legs, and core. This physical practice is essential for mobility and coordination.

Social-Emotional Development:Interactive play with caregivers builds trust and bonds. Toys also allow babies to begin expressing preferences, communicating through gestures and sounds, and experiencing emotions like joy, surprise, and pride in their accomplishments.

Features to Look For

When selecting motor skills toys for newborns, there are certain features to prioritize:

Colorful and high contrast - At this young age, babies respond best to bold, high contrast colors like black, white and red. Toys with these color schemes will capture their attention and focus their eyes and hands.

Various textures - Toys made with different materials like soft plush, smooth wood, and crinkly fabrics spark curiosity and engage their sense of touch. Varying textures help promote fine motor control.

Safe materials - Any toy for newborns should be made from non-toxic materials like organic cotton, wood, or food-grade silicone. Avoid materials that could contain BPA, phthalates or lead.

Easy to grasp - Toys should be lightweight with easy-to-grasp shapes that fit their small hands. Large rings, soft blocks, and rattles allow them to grasp and explore objects.

Multi-sensory - The best toys engage multiple senses at once through sights, sounds, and textures. Combining different sensory elements keeps babies engaged for longer.

When shopping for motor skills toys, prioritizing these features will ensure you choose options that are developmentally appropriate, safe, and engaging for little hands and minds.

Best Floor Gyms

Floor gyms are designed to encourage newborns to kick their legs, reach and grasp for toys, and strengthen their neck muscles. According to BabyGearLab, some of the top floor gyms for newborns include:

Lovevery Play Gym - This gym features high-contrast black and white patterns and dangling toys that promote visual development. It has different stages that grow with the baby up to 1 year old.

Fisher-Price Kick 'n Play Piano Gym - With music, lights, textures, and crinkly toys, this gym provides plenty of stimulation. The soft piano mat allows babies to kick and activate sounds.

Manhattan Toy Tree Top Activity Gym - Featuring colorful branching arches, dangling toys, and a soft play mat, this gym lets babies bat, kick, reach, and grasp. It helps build motor skills.

Best Rattles & Teethers

Rattles and teethers are great developmental toys for newborns that encourage motor skills, coordination, and sensory exploration. Here are some of the best options:

The Manhattan Toy Winkel Rattle and Teether is a top seller made of soft, pliable plastic that's easy for little hands to grasp. Its unique shape and bright colors promote visual tracking and grasping skills. It also provides tactile stimulation for teething babies.

For a more natural option, the Estella Organic Cotton Elephant Teething Rattle is handmade from organic cotton with knotted legs that are perfect for chewing. It makes a gentle rattling sound to stimulate baby's senses.

The Bright Starts Rattle and Teething Toy combines a teether, rattle, and clip together for multi-sensory play. Easy to grasp handles promote motor skills while teether textures soothe sore gums.

Best Stacking & Sorting Toys

Stacking and sorting toys are great for developing hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Here are some of the best options for newborns:

The InnyBin from Fat Brain Toys allows babies to sort chunky blocks. The bins help guide little hands to stack and organize. Bright colors and textures promote sensory development.

The classic Melissa & Doug Shape Sorter has proven its effectiveness over the years. Babies can match the carved shapes to the proper openings, developing hand-eye coordination. The finished wood is durable and safe.

The Hape Shape Sorting Bear doubles the fun with a sweet teddy bear design. Tots can sort the blocks through the bear's tummy and out his back. The soft bear is huggable too!

Best Push & Pull Toys

Push and pull toys help develop hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills. Here are some top options for newborns:

The Bright Starts Giggling Gourmet Shop 'n Cook Walker is a walker that has push-activated sounds and lights. As babies push it, they're rewarded with giggles, textures, and colors. The easy-grip handle promotes grasping and pulling.

The classic Fisher Price Corn Popper Push and Popper has chunky buttons for grasping and balls that pop as babies push it. The sturdy construction holds up to early exploratory play.

The Melissa & Doug Pull and Play Pushing Toy has a wooden skunk with wheels that makes a fun crinkly sound when pulled. The string is easy for tiny hands to grasp.

Safety Tips

When choosing toys for newborns, safety should always be the top priority. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Supervise Play: Babies explore with their mouths, so never leave them unattended with toys. Stay nearby to monitor use and watch for any potential dangers.

Choose Age-Appropriate Toys: Follow age guidelines on toy packaging. Avoid toys with small parts that could detach and pose a choking hazard for babies.

Avoid Choking Hazards: Avoid toys with small parts, strings, cords, or ribbons that are longer than 12 inches. Check that toys have no sharp edges or points.

Test Toys for Durability: Ensure toys have no breakable parts or weaknesses that could detach or break into hazardous small pieces. Tug, twist, and stress test toys.

Keep Toys Clean: Disinfect toys regularly, especially if shared between children. Ensure toys have easy-to-clean surfaces.

Check Safety Standards: Choose toys marked with ASTM F963 to indicate they meet safety standards for babies. Avoid toys with button batteries or magnets.

Shop Reputable Retailers: Purchase toys from retailers that specialize in high-quality, safety-tested baby products from reputable brands and manufacturers.

Remain Vigilant: Routinely inspect toys for damage and discard any that have loose parts, sharp edges, or signs of wear. Err on the side of caution when evaluating toy safety.


About Maria

Maria is not just a contributor to NowKiddy; she's also a devoted mother who has personally navigated the joys and challenges of parenting. With three children raised under her attentive guidance, she has amassed a wealth of experience and knowledge ...

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